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The Gothic and Death$
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Carol Margaret Davison

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784992699

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784992699.001.0001

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Entranced by death: Horace Smith’s Mesmerism

Entranced by death: Horace Smith’s Mesmerism

(p.48) 3 Entranced by death: Horace Smith’s Mesmerism
The Gothic and Death

Bruce Wyse

Manchester University Press

Blending aspects of the religious novel with Gothic motifs, Horace Smith’s 1845 novel Mesmerism: A Mystery employs mesmerism to make its case for a radical transvaluation of death. Prematurely spiritualised by mesmeric treatment, the protagonist Jane Harvey attains a preternatural awareness of the liminal space between life and death, and, in the novel’s affirmative re-conception of the Death and the Maiden motif, she repeatedly encounters a mysterious phantom that proves to be the mildly uncanny yet enticing embodiment of death itself. The text evokes the ‘mistaken terror of death’ in order to dispel it and enthusiastically affirms both the Evangelical ‘good death’ and what Phillipe Ariès calls the ‘beautiful death’. However, in its disproportionate emphasis on death per se, and its polemical drive to reconceive death as ‘The Universal Friend’, the novel flirts with the heterodoxy that its personified Death is the principal redeemer of humankind.

Keywords:   Mesmerism, Mystery, Phantom, Transvaluation, Universal Friend, Good death, Beautiful death, Death and the Maiden, Horace Smith, Phillip Ariès

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